““It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
― Aristotle, Metaphysics
I highly look up to this mode of thinking. There is a welcoming, kind and loving character behind the person that acknowledges the opposing idea is worth considering. The person that can carry my ideas to their conclusions, yet not accept them, is an honorable, loving and person to be admired. Being able to explain the disagreement is much easier shown once a thorough breakdown of an argument is laid out, so nothing is left in the dark and no bickering ensues because something wasn’t discussed or defined. The animosity between both parties increases perpetually because something was left unsaid and it only kindles the fire between them. Intellectual honesty is lost because no one truly knows the other side. Both parties see each other as a “stupid ignoramus”. As a result of this kind of argument; It’s only predictable that they won’t see each other as credible intellectual people (at least in whatever they were arguing about).
In current times, we see these hot topics where people argue so hard at each other because the topic at hand is so valuable to daily life. Religion, politics, ethics, and education are usually the big categories that house these enthralling and angry debates. They don’t have to be this way. Emotions run high and cloud our rational thinking, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, because it shows you actually care about the truth value of the arguments and its implications. Are zygotes humans? Is legalizing marijuana good given restrictions? How shall we interpret Apostle Paul’s words about Christian Discipline? Did Jesus affirm that I must pay govt taxes? All of these are good and meaningful questions, but people will disagree and bring much rigor or vigor or both.
I want to bring to your attention a discussion i had where the I used Aristotle’s methodology. I say discussion, because we didn’t actually argue where a point-counterpoint dialogue challenges the other perspective. I just pressed questions to gain my friend’s reasons for accepting the subject in dispute. James 1:19 says that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak, so I’d like to take a moment and say that this verse requires the listener to do something. The book of James has much pragmatic value, so i think it grants us the contextual interpretation that James wants listeners to press for answers and seek reasons in others before we make claims on others. After that, it’s their turn to listen and do just as the other did. (Listen–>question–>clarify—>make claim)
I was reading a magazine where the title in big bold print says “Is Rob Bell A Heretic?”
I didn’t read too much into it until my friend says… “I’ll sum the article up for you….*draws his finger up and down the pages* Yes.”
- Me: How do you know?
- Friend: Well, he’s a universalist.
- Me: Do you know what Rob says? Do you even know what his arguments are?
- Friend: Not all of them.
- Me: Why don’t you?
- Friend: I know enough.
- Me: What constitutes enough?
- Friend: What he says goes against the Bible.
- Me: What if he argues from the Bible?
- Friend: I know it wouldn’t be correct because universalism is not what the Bible teaches.
At this point, dinner was ready and the discussion stopped. In this particular case, we have 2 sides that can be pitted against each other where a 3rd party is referenced too. Either… Universalism is true or not and the reasons as to why are drawn out of the Christian Bible. My friend says universalism is not true according to the Bible and whatever his appeals to the Bible may be, is enough for him to confidently say Rob Bell is wrong no matter his arguments. Notice here, that I am granting my friend that what he does know was not said and that i’m granting his representation of Rob Bell to be correct. I was simply trying to press out his reasons for saying Rob Bell is a heretic. He gave me nothing from Rob Bell to work with, so I assume that the thrust of his arguments are Biblical and not from Rob Bell.
Given more time, I would have pressed my friend for what Rob Bell has said about the Bible. This is the crux of where an argument would have started, because depending on my friend’s knowledge of Rob Bell’s arguments from the Bible. I would have said there is ether…..
1.) Good reason for your disagreement, because you gave a good reference and rebuttal of Rob Bell.
2.) Poor reason for your disagreement, because you don’t even consider Rob Bell’s exegesis and interpretation of the Bible verses he references for the foundation of his universalism.
Point 2 is the very idea i want to drive home. A complete lack of knowledge on your opposition that appeals to the same authority as you, but differs on the same view, yet nothing brought against it. Point 2 amounts to saying “I disagree because i know the truth and any opposition has to be wrong, so it’s not even worth investing.” It’s quite a statement isn’t it? According to Aristotle, this person is failing to “Entertain a thought without accepting it.”, because this person neglected to entertain the thought. I would think Aristotle’s intention to say this is that the thought needs to be understood truthfully first and foremost before one accepts/rejects it.
James 1:19 reminds reinforces this into me because I do take the Bible with authority so it’s a Godly command to people to be intellectually honest. Ignorance isn’t the issue here. Knowing how to weed out substance and asking questions for clarification, in my opinion, is the best attribute to have while engaging in discussions and arguments. This methodology prevents over confidence in one’s position if knowledge is little on the topic. Aristotle makes it clear and James puts it into a new lens.